- The Washington Times - Friday, May 30, 2008

NOW PLAYING

* Antony and Cleopatra —.. “Antony and Cleopatra” is not Shakespeare’s most compelling drama. The Bard’s take on this epic tragedy-history grows long and windy trying to cover the endless complexities of its political, military and emotional tangle. That having been said, the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s new production at Sidney Harman Hall manages to uncover the dramatic heart of this problem play. With the help of a strong cast under the knowing direction of Michael Kahn, this “Antony and Cleopatra” brings form, function and genuine pathos into the play’s unwieldy structure. Running in repertory with “Julius Caesar” through July 6. 202/547-1122

* Closing Time - - The American premiere of Owen McCafferty’s dark, gloomy 2002 play about dark, doomed drunks in a dark, doomed Belfast pub. Through June 7. 703/892-0202, ext. 2

* Crumble (Lay Me Down Justin Timberlake) - - A lonely girl fantasizes about Justin Timberlake, her widowed mother fantasizes about Harrison Ford and their apartment suffers in Sheila Callaghan’s play. Through June 7. 202/494-3776

* David in Shadow and Light - - ** Rhythm and Jews converge in “David in Shadow and Light,” a world-premiere, chockablock postmodern musical about Old Testament stone-slinger King David by Yehuda Hyman and Daniel Hoffman, under the direction of Nick Olcott. Even though King David (played winningly by Matt Pearson in his youth and by a schizophrenically campy and somber Bobby Smith in his older days) can be seen as the ultimate multitasker - in more ways than one, as this Hebraic hottie had eight wives and countless paramours - it all becomes a biblical blur after a while. King David’s contradictions and ambitions are reflected in the music, a queasy hybrid of klezmer, cheesy bossa nova drumbeats, nursery rhymes and a smattering of hip-hop. Similarly, the libretto teeters between epic pronouncements, shticky double-takes and one-liners, and such anachronisms as having the circa B.C. David greeting everyone with a desultory “Hey.” Despite sublime violin playing from Mr. Hoffman and a cast in fine voice, there is more “oy” than joy in “David.” Through June 22. 800/494-8497

* The Happy Time - - *** Signature’s winsome chamber-musical revival of the seldom seen 1968 Kander and Ebb show “The Happy Time” is both a coming-of-age story for a young boy (the excellent Jace Casey) and the end of a protracted adolescence for the show’s hero, Jacques (Michael Minarik), a jaunty reprobate. Directed by Michael Unger, this revision brings back four numbers snipped from the original Broadway production (a Tony winner for star Robert Goulet and director-choreographer Gower Champion).Through Sunday . 703/573-7328

* The Internationalist - Studio Theatre - ***1/2 More fun than two packs of honey-roasted peanuts, “The Internationalist” is a slick and provocative comedy for our global age. An import from the New York-based theater company 13P, Anne Washburn’s play gives the standard fish-out-of-water plot an intercontinental, jet-lagged twist that is enhanced by the generic, modern sleekness of Debra Booth’s set and the sardonic crispness of the performances under the direction of Kirk Jackson. “The Internationalist” follows Lowell (Tyler Pierce), an American executive usually on top of his game, as he lands disheveled and disoriented (after a hilariously thorough strip-search at the airport, which ends with a Homeland Security employee giving him a wedgie) in some undetermined Eastern European country, an outpost of his home corporation. Mr. Pierce effortlessly elicits both empathy and laughs as a corporate go-getter brought low by a language barrier. Tonya Beckman Ross adds an air of mystery and perhaps duplicity to the role of Sara, while Holly Twyford is a clear-cut howl as the by-the-book executive Irene. Jason Lott’s expressions of utter panic are priceless in a number of roles, in contrast to the smooth elegance of James Konicek’s Paul and Cameron McNary’s obsessive office nerd, Nicol. Through June 22. 202/232-3300

* Julius Caesar - - **1/2 Image makes the man and proves his undoing in the Shakespeare Theatre’s majestic production of “Julius Caesar” under the direction of David Muse. The play is about the pitfalls of rhetoric and the astonishing power to make things happen by words alone. The assassination of Caesar (Dan Kremer) is nasty and brutish in this production; he is calmly and almost ritualistically stabbed in turn by his former allies. As is customary with the Shakespeare Theatre, “Julius Caesar” is a handsome production, and several performances stand out, including Scott Parkinson’s crafty, conversational turn as Cassius, Dean Nolen’s talent as a raconteur in his portrayal of Caska, and Aubrey K. Deeker as the delicately astute politician Octavius Caesar. Running in repertory with “Antony and Cleopatra.” Through July 6. 202/547-1122

* Looking for Roberto Clemente- - This world-premiere children’s musical features a buoyant rock score that harkens back to the days of the Jackson Five and 1970s supergroups with tuneful lessons that delve into the nature of heroism. Set in 1972 Pittsburgh, the musical centers on the impact Roberto Clemente’s 3,000th hit has on the life of Sam, an 11-year-old fan, and his friends. Sam is a slugger in his mind and nervous on the field, so when a baseball crashes through his window while he’s listening to the landmark game on his transistor radio, he believes it is Clemente’s ball and imbues it with magical powers. Through Sunday 301/280-1660

* Mad Breed - - A black freewoman with Shakespearean dreams shows up to complicate a play staged by John Wilkes Booth’s teenage siblings. Through Sunday 301/526-9921

* The Oresteia - - **1/2 Music, myth and immortals converge in this ambitious and well-intentioned production of Aeschylus’ “The Oresteia,” the only trilogy of ancient Greek drama that has survived intact. (It was first produced in 458 B.C.) Constellation’s large cast of 29 varies widely in technical ability in both vocal and physical control, and the results are often distractingly uneven. Through Sunday . 800/494-8497

* The School for Scandal - - ** Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s 1777 comedy of very bad manners and irresistible folly. Director Richard Clifford has assembled a dream cast, which includes deft comedians David Sabin, Kate Eastwood Norris, Tom Story and Catherine Flye. However, other than Miss Flye’s wickedly funny turn as a lisping flibbertigibbet who deludes herself into thinking she hasn’t an unkind bone in her body and Mr. Sabin’s measured wiliness as a codger completely flummoxed by the idea that his nubile wife (Miss Eastwood Norris, criminally underused) might have married him for money, the cast just seems to flit and flop carelessly about the stage. Through June 15. 202/544-7077

* Volvio una Noche/She Returned One Night - - An underachiever is prodded to succeed by his dead mother, whom only he can see and hear. Through tomorrow 202/882-6227

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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